A major branch of Davies' argument was that Forest are creating chances, and if true, then logically it must lead us to the conclusion that the team and tactics are capable of getting the goals to win games. Anyone there against Ipswich will remember us creating these chances, but just how many do Forest create?
If we look at the amount of attempts on goal (see left), for all the teams in the division, we can see that The Garibaldi more than hold their own. Davies' side has been creative enough to have 290 attempts on goal so far this season - the 4th most in the league.
14.5 attempts on goal, on average, is more than enough to find the net - it tends to suggest at first glance that Forest are creative enough, that the system Billy sends onto the pitch is doing it's job - only one side do significantly better in this regard.
Let's not forget Forest's league position at the moment; we are 7th and only a point off the playoffs, so it seems strange that the manager is feeling the need to justify his tactics (which is exactly what Davies was doing post Ipswich - it was a statement; "I am doing my job". If the players can't score when Blly's system has them creating so many chances... perhaps they are to blame) - but there is certainly pressure on the Scot from some quarters.
And critics could certainly argue that just because Forest are creating 14.5 chances a game - it does not necessarily mean they are good chances. What kind of attempts on goal are The Reds making? Are they good chances resultant from a classy Forest side slicing open the opposition, or are they hopeful punts at goal - in my opinion we have seen our fair share of both.
Surely a more fitting way of judging your creative goal-scoring potential is to have a look at how many attempts the team is having on target. Forest have found the target an average of 5.1 times per game, which doesn't sound many until you consider that the best average in The Championship is 5.3 (Derby). The Garibaldi have had an attempt on target 101 times this season; the 4th best amount in total. 34.8% of Forest's attempts on goal have been on target this season - again, this is up there with the best.
Out if interest, I re-played the season so far, awarding a win to the team who had the most attempts on target in that game; a draw if they were equal - the results were interesting (see right). Under this system, Forest are right up there vying for automatic promotion in 3rd place.
In analysing this we have to be careful, but as a starting point it's good evidence that the chances Forest create are decent ones - if we are regularly having more chances on target than our opponents, there cannot be too much wrong.
What it says about the players having these chances is debatable - are they doing well to get the shot on target? Should they be doing enough to beat the keeper? More on this below.
Looking at the other teams is also interesting - look at Reading! Not only do they fail to create (they have the second worst amount of attempts per game in the league) but they also regularly have less attempts on target than their opponents - they are down in 22nd in our fictional On Target League. How then, in reality, are they above Forest, when Forest are so much more creative, and trouble goalkeepers more often? How? Because when they get the chance, Reading score.
We've followed a trail of attempts, and attempts on target - now we get to the goals. We know Forest can create, and when they get the chance they can hit the target - but what percentage of those attempts on target are counting?
Here we have finally unearthed the problem; Forest have, for a promotion-hunting side, a diabolical success rate in scoring, considering the amount of times they are making the keeper work. Only 28.7% of their shots on target go in - meaning that, to score the same amount of goals as promotion-rivals Reading, Forest have needed to hit the target an extra 25 times.
Forest are up near the top statistically in every test I ran - except the one that matters - actually making the net bulge. Is this the clinical finishing problem Billy alluded to? It's all very well hitting the target, but if it's easy for the goalkeeper, he's going to save it.
However, I don't believe it to be that simple; surely there has to be some element of luck involved here - take a closer look at the table, left. Do Millwall really possess the league's most clinical finishers? I think Liam Trotter is a good player, and I've long admired Jermaine Easter's effort... but really..?
I think this is another debatable, unprovable question - either players from Millwall, Derby, Leeds and Reading have suddenly turned into world-class finishers and are picking their spot like Roberto Baggio, while the Forest players are merely lashing it blindly towards goal, or there has been a lot of luck involved here.
I would also point to some of the goalkeeping displays Forest have come up against this season. I remember watching the Watford game end, happy that no other keeper could possibly play as well as Manuel Almunia did against us - but they have. Wayne Henessey pulled off another great performance helping Yeovil beat us. Turnbull, Gerken (see picture below, click to enlarge), Heaton, Gilks - they have all had above average games against The Reds. I would suggest that few teams have come up against so many goalkeepers in top form as Forest.
I set out to explore the comments of Billy Davies, that 90% of Forest's play was working well, and that it was solely down to clinical finishing, with the pre-conceived notion that I disagreed with him. From watching the last dozen or so games I judged (and probably still do) that there was plenty of other areas for improvement - but it's difficult to argue with Davies because if there's one thing these statistics prove it's that he's right in what he's saying; Forest create enough chances - therefore the system is working, as is the team in every area except one; clinical finishing.
More ambiguous is what this all says about those players missing the chances. They are not missing the target - they have hit the target over a hundred times this season - it's just that they have had to do so more times than their rivals. Should they be taking a steadier aim and picking out the top corner, leaving the goalkeeper no chance? Do you think Craig Bryson (8 league goals) at Derby is? No I don't either. I think he's just shambling them towards goal and they happen to go in. I don't think this kind of player, or many of the others playing for the more 'clinical' sides in The Championship, are any more clinical than the likes of Simon Cox or Darius Henderson. I think luck has played a huge role so far this season.
Unlucky or not, there have certainly been times when the players have not helped themselves. Several free-headers against Ipswich did not even threaten the keeper. We have missed penalty after penalty and blown many one-on-ones - the Forest players do need to be more clinical - but hopefully, together with my other articles of Forest's attacking merits, I've added to the debate as to whether our teeth are sharp enough coming forward.
Unlucky or wasteful? It's debatable. I think the only thing I've proven here is the one thing I wasn't expecting to; that Billy was right, that Forest are dong enough in everything except scoring. Thanks for reading - comments encouraged, especially if you disagree. COYR!